When love hurts a little less

October 18, 2010

According to new research from Stanford University, romantic love may serve as a natural painkiller. The study found that intense feelings of love activate dopamine-oriented centers of the brain, the same areas that also react to drugs such as cocaine.

Dr. Sean Mackey, lead study author and chair of the pain management division at Stanford, studied 15 couples in “new and passionate love”. Here is a rundown of the study thanks to Time.com:

Each of the volunteers was asked to bring in a picture of their significant other, along with a photo of an “equally attractive” platonic friend. The friend’s picture served as the control in the study, to adjust for any potential effects of attractiveness.

The participants then went through a fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scanner where they were shown the photos one at a time. Serving as an additional control, the students also had to complete a mental skill test. During all three tasks, they had to hold a heated device that got just hot enough to produce mild pain.

The research team then compared how the brain reacted to each of the three tasks. They found that while looking at a photo of their significant other, the volunteers could withstand a greater amount of pain. The scans also showed that the parts of the brain involved in love are different from the typical analgesic pathways, as well as the areas that are involved with distraction.

Dr. Mackey says:

“These pain-relieving systems are linked to reward systems… Love engages these deep brain systems that are involved with reward and craving and similar systems involved in addiction.”

This study is published in the journal PLoS One.

Common sense urged on treating pain

November 5, 2009

You would think that pain, being an obvious and compelling condition, would have an obvious and compelling cure. In fact, for years it was a neglected area of medicine; and one that endured willful neglect after falling victim to the war on drugs. Over-anxious law enforcement authorities began targeting doctors who prescribed opioid pain killers in the belief that they were doing so injudiciously, fueling drug abuse across the country. The abuses created by the fear of abuse, and the media’s over-reliance on law enforcement at the expense of doctors, have been documented by STATS (here, here and here).

Thankfully, there appears to be change afoot. John Tierney in the New York Times writes about a new report from the Mayday Fund, arguing for  “a revolution in the training of doctors, the financing of research and the education of law-enforcement officials.”  Given the number of Americans who suffer from undertreated or neglected chronic pain, the report is a vital contribution to public debate.

Potty mouth provides pain relief

July 14, 2009

Pain and cussing are kissing cousins: yes, it’s wrong, but – heck – it feels appropriate to right a physical wrong with a verbal one. Now, new research points to potty mouthing as a palliative for pain.

A research team from Keele University in England found that cursing actually helps to alleviate pain. The researchers set up an experiment using 64 college students. Their original hypothesis was that cursing would amplify the pain because the participant would be focusing on their injury.

The participants were asked to put their hand in freezing water and leave it there for as long as they could. While their hand was in the water, half of the students were told to repeat their favorite swear word, while the others were asked to repeat a neutral word.  The experiment was then repeated with the groups switching word categories.

According to MSNBC News:

“…the cursing group not only reported lower levels of pain, but also were able to keep their hands in the icy water longer. The men in the study, for example, were able to keep their hands in the water for an average of 190 seconds while swearing, but for only 140 seconds when uttering a neutral word. The difference was even more pronounced in women. While men’s pain scores dropped by a point when they cussed, the women’s dropped by almost two full points.”

The researchers believe that pain is alleviated because swearing can trigger the body’s natural fight-or-flight response which occurs to help an individual deal with an impending threat. The study is published in the current issue of Neuroreport.

Prosecutors Try to Gag Medical Testimony

April 9, 2008

STATS’ fellow Maia Szalavitz reports on the Huffington Post on a case where prosecutors are trying to get a gag order on an activist group for pain sufferers. It seems the testimony provided by the Pain Relief Network as to the legitimacy of prescribing opioids for chronic pain is proving difficult to deal with in the ongoing prosecution of doctors for drug trafficking.

A Painful Mess

November 12, 2007

Maia Szalavitz, Huffington Post

Over a 48-hours period, Richard Paey was medicated with a larger dose of drugs for his MS and back pain while he was in prison than he took when he was free. Yet he was imprisoned for the smaller amount. He’s just been given a full pardon by the State of Florida. To find out what is going on, read STATS Maia Szalavitz in Reason Magazine… more

Originally published August 15, 2007

Acupuncture and Back Pain

November 12, 2007

Maia Szalavitz

Getting randomly pricked by needles won’t help if you’re in severe pain… more

Originally published September 28, 2007

Condemned to Die in Pain

November 12, 2007

Maia Szalavitz, Huffington Post

Myths and misconceptions about accidental addiction and abuse mean many outside the West are condemned to die in agony… more

Originally published September 12, 2007


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